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Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by markjay, Jan 30, 2012.

  1. st13phil

    st13phil MB Club Veteran

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    An interesting question, Charles.

    My view is probably not – but not necessarily for the reasons of Trades Unions or poor industrial relations at the shop floor level.

    It wasn’t really until the mid / late 1970’s that Japanese quality systems and production methods were being widely accepted in the West as beneficial, and certainly if we look back to the early 1960’s “Made in Japan” was not accepted as the quality benchmark that we’re used to today. Remember also that while Nissan and Toyota have a longer car manufacturing history, Honda didn’t build their first car until the mid 1960’s. It’s unlikely therefore that they would have been able to offer an alternative style of manufacturing management that was seen as credible in the UK at that time.

    A fundamental obstacle to adopting a quality-centric approach to manufacturing in the UK was the erroneous belief amongst senior managers that it would increase costs, whereas the Japanese have long understood that the opposite is true. A good example of this came from a friend of mine who held a senior position within Pressed Steel Fisher (PS-F) and who did a great deal of work with Honda in the early days of the Rover / Honda collaboration. He argued strongly that PS-F should be investing in tooling for single piece body side pressings (as used by all volume car bodyshells today) and welded door hinges rather than perpetuating the multi-piece fabrication that had been the norm for their bodyshells for years. The reason for using single piece pressings is that it makes possible much closer tolerances leading to greatly simplified assembly and absolute repeatability – both key elements in achieving a quality product. This met massive resistance from other senior people in the organisation (i.e. at Director level), partly due to the high tooling capital cost, but also because they claimed that it wasn’t possible to do. Yet my friend had witnessed exactly this manufacturing technique in Honda’s own production facilities so it patently was not just possible, but there was also good information as to the benefits of the technique as well. There’s nothing quite so effective as blind ignorance at the top of a company to orchestrate its demise.

    Japan and Germany are rightly lauded for their transition after the Second World War into strong manufacturing economies. It’s no accident in my view that both countries recognise Engineers as high-status professionals within their respective societies, nor that both have a significantly different funding model for their capitally intensive businesses (i.e. most manufacturers) that focusses on long term objectives rather than short term financial performance. Neither of those attributes characterise the climate in which UK manufacturing operates.

    The irony in all this is that the person who taught the Japanese the importance of quality to the success of manufacturing was actually an American whose methods were largely ignored by western manufacturers until the last few years of his life: W. Edwards Deming.
     
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  2. grober

    grober MB Club Veteran

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    The fact that they also had huge monetary aid poured into them post World War II by the USA in an effort to counteract the perceived Communist Expansion of the USSR and China may have helped a bit? Plus the fact they were only allowed as "losers" to spend very limited money on re-armament and could focus their national efforts on rebuilding/improving their industrial base may have helped too. Britain in the meantime [ as part of NATO with the US] spent quite bit of money "defending " Germany and other members of the EEC against the Communist block - Remember the BAOR 1945-1994 and the Berlin air lift of 1949 :dk:
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2012
  3. st13phil

    st13phil MB Club Veteran

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    ^ That's absolutely true as well.

    The Allies recognised the danger that a failed German or Japanese economy would represent and invested heavily in rebuilding their destroyed infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities. By contrast, UK manufacturers received no such inward investment and instead continued to sweat less productive pre-war machine tools and facilities leaving them with a competitiveness deficit.
     
  4. Charles Morgan

    Charles Morgan MB Club Veteran

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    Actually that is a bit of a myth. Marshall Aid was far greater for the UK than for Germany, but they spent it on infrastructure, we spent it on defence, the empire and building new housing rather than repair (The Lost Victory by Corelli Barnett summarises it neatly). Also, German industry didn't necessarily have it good because of their aid priorities - BMW went bust long after Marshall Aid.
     
  5. tinker

    tinker Member

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    Honda did a decent enough job with the triumph acclaim, people who i have worked with said the japenese, at the production engineering side of things, did a good job. To quote " better than BMW."

    My experience reflects that of st13phil, the problems really do start at the top within large manufacturing companies in the UK. An accountants view of a business is a completely different one to that of an engineer.
     

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